John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk

John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk KG (c. 1425  22 August 1485), was an English nobleman, soldier, politician, and the first Howard Duke of Norfolk. He was a close friend and loyal supporter of King Richard III, with whom he was slain at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk
Died(1485-08-22)22 August 1485
Noble familyHoward
Spouse(s)Katherine Moleyns
Margaret Chedworth
Thomas Howard, 2nd Duke of Norfolk
Nicholas Howard
Isabel Howard
Anne Howard
Margaret Howard
Jane Howard
Katherine Howard
FatherSir Robert Howard
MotherMargaret Mowbray


John Howard, born about 1425, was the son of Sir Robert Howard of Tendring (1398–1436) and Margaret de Mowbray (1391–1459), eldest daughter of Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk (of the first creation) (1366–1399), by Elizabeth FitzAlan (1366–1425). His paternal grandparents were Sir John Howard of Wiggenhall, Norfolk, and Alice Tendring, daughter of Sir William Tendring.[1][2]

Howard was a descendant of English royalty through both sides of his family. On his father's side, Howard was descended from Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall, the second son of King John, who had an illegitimate son, named Richard (died 1296), whose daughter, Joan of Cornwall, married Sir John Howard (d. shortly before 23 July 1331).[3] On his mother's side, Howard was descended from Thomas of Brotherton, 1st Earl of Norfolk, the elder son of Edward I of England by his second wife, Margaret of France, and from Edward I's younger brother, Edmund Crouchback.


Howard succeeded his father in 1436. In his youth he was in the household of his cousin John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk (died 1461), and was drawn into Norfolk's conflicts with William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk. In 1453 he was involved in a lawsuit with Suffolk's wife, Alice Chaucer. He had been elected to Parliament in 1449 and during the 1450s he held several local offices. According to Crawford, he was at one point during this period described as "wode as a wilde bullok". He is said to have been with Lord Lisle in his expedition to Guyenne in 1452, which ended in defeat at Castillon on 17 July 1453.[4][2] He received an official commission from the King on 10 December 1455 and also had been utilised by Henry to promote friendship between Lord Moleyns (his father-in-law) and one John Clopton.[5]

He was a staunch adherent of the House of York during the Wars of the Roses, and was knighted by King Edward IV at the Battle of Towton on 29 March 1461.[lower-alpha 1] In the same year he was appointed Constable of Norwich and Colchester castles, and became part of the royal household as one of the King's carvers, "the start of a service to the house of York which was to last for the rest of his life."[4][2]

In 1461 Howard was High Sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk, and during the years 1462-4 he took part in military campaigns against the Lancastrians. In 1467 he served as deputy for Norfolk as Earl Marshal at 'the most splendid tournament of the age when Antoine, count of La Roche, the Bastard of Burgundy, jousted against the Queen's brother, Lord Scales. In the same year he was one of three ambassadors sent to Burgundy to arrange the marriage of the King's sister, Margaret of York, to Charles, Duke of Burgundy. At about this time he was made a member of the King's council, and in 1468 he was among those who escorted Margaret to Burgundy for her wedding.[4][2] During the 1460s Howard had become involved in the internal politics of St John's Abbey in Colchester, of which he was a patron.[6] He interfered with the abbatial elections at the Abbey following the death of Abbot Ardeley in 1464, helping the Yorkist supporter John Canon to win the election.[6] Howard then appears to have interfered again in support of Abbot Stansted's election following Canon's death in 1464.[6]

Howard's advancement in the King's household continued. By 1467 he was a Knight of the Body, and in September 1468 was appointed Treasurer of the Royal Household, an office which he held for only two years, until Edward lost the throne in 1470.[4]

According to Crawford, Howard was a wealthy man by 1470, and when Edward IV's first reign ended he went into exile on the continent. In the area around Stoke by Nayland Howard held some sixteen manors, seven of which the King had granted him in 1462. After 1463, he purchased a number of other manors, including six forfeited by John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford, the son of his cousin, Elizabeth Howard.[2]

Howard was summoned to Parliament from 15 October 1470 by writs directed to Iohanni Howard de Howard Militi and Iohanni Howard Chivaler, whereby he is held to have become Lord Howard. On 24 April 1472 he was admitted to the Order of the Garter.[4][2][1] In 1475 he accompanied Edward in his attempt on France.[7]

In April 1483 he bore the royal banner at the funeral of King Edward IV.[4] He supported Richard III's usurpation of the throne from King Edward V, and was appointed Lord High Steward. He bore the crown before Richard at his coronation, while his eldest son, the Earl of Surrey, carried the Sword of State. On 28 June 1483 he was created Duke of Norfolk, third creation, the first creation having become extinct on the death of John de Mowbray, 4th Duke of Norfolk, in 1476, and the second creation having been invalidated by Richard's illegitimisation, on 25 June 1483, of Edward IV's second son Richard of York. This left John Howard as heir to the duchy, and his alliance with Richard ensured his acquisition of the title. He was also created Earl Marshal, and Lord Admiral of all England, Ireland, and Aquitaine.

The Duke's principal home was at Stoke-by-Nayland (and later Framlingham Castle) in Suffolk.[8] However, after his second marriage he frequently resided at Ockwells Manor at Cox Green in Bray as it was conveniently close to the royal residence at Windsor Castle.[8]

Marriages and issue

Before 29 September 1442 he married Catherine (died 3 November 1465), the daughter of Sir William Moleyns (7 January 1378  8 June 1425), of Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire, and his wife Margery (died 26 March 1439).

With Catherine Moleyns, he had two sons and four daughters:[9][2]

Howard married secondly, before 22 January 1467, Margaret (1436–1494), the daughter of Sir John Chedworth and his wife, Margaret Bowett,[lower-alpha 2] and widow, firstly of Nicholas Wyfold (1420–1456), Lord Mayor of London, and secondly of Sir John Norreys (1400  1 September 1466), Master of the Wardrobe.[13]

By his second wife, Margaret Chedworth, he had one daughter:[13][2]


John Howard was slain at the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485 along with his friend and patron King Richard.[14] Howard was the commander of the vanguard, and his son, the Earl of Surrey, his lieutenant. Howard was killed when a Lancastrian arrow struck him in the face after the face guard had been torn off his helmet during an earlier altercation with the Earl of Oxford.[15] He was slain prior to King Richard, which had a demoralising effect on the king. Shakespeare relates how, the night before, someone had left John Howard a note attached to his tent warning him that King Richard III, his "master," was going to be double-crossed (which he was):

"Jack of Norfolk, be not too bold, For Dickon, thy master, is bought and sold."[16]

However, this story does not appear prior to Edward Hall in 1548, so the story may well be an apocryphal embellishment of a later era.[17] He was buried in Thetford Priory, but his body seems to have been moved at the Reformation, possibly to the tomb of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk at Framlingham Church. The monumental brass of his first wife Katherine Moleyns can, however, still be seen in Suffolk.

Howard was the great-grandfather of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, the second and fifth Queens consort, respectively, of King Henry VIII. Thus, through Anne Boleyn, he was the great-great-grandfather of Elizabeth I. After his death his titles were declared forfeit by King Henry VII, but his son, the 1st Earl of Surrey, was later restored as 2nd Duke (the Barony of Howard, however, remains forfeit). His senior descendants, the Dukes of Norfolk, have been Earls Marshal and Premier Peers of England since the 17th century, and male-line descendants hold the Earldoms of Carlisle, Suffolk, Berkshire and Effingham.



  1. Crawford (2004) states that he was knighted at Edward IV's coronation.
  2. In some sources Margaret Bowett's maiden name is said to have been Wyfold, but this is an error; it was her daughter, Margaret Chedworth, who married Nicholas Wyfold in 1455. Margaret Bowett's parents were Nicholas Bowett of Rippingale, Lincolnshire, and Elizabeth La Zouche of Harringworth, Northamptonshire.
  1. Richardson II 2011, pp. 409–413.
  2. Crawford 2004.
  3. Richardson 2011, pp. 566–76.
  4. Cokayne 1936, pp. 610–12.
  5. Richard III's 'Beloved Cousyn', John Ashdown-Hill, Stroud 2009, p.13
  6. Ashdown-Hill, John (2009) Mediaeval Colchester's Lost Landmarks. Published by The Breedon Books Publishing Company Limited. (ISBN 978-1-85983-686-6)
  7. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Norfolk, Earls and Dukes of s.v. John Howard" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 19 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 743.
  8. Ford, David Nash (2011). "John Howard, Duke of Norfolk (c. 1425–1485)". Royal Berkshire History. Nash Ford Publishing. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  9. Richardson II 2011, pp. 412–414.
  10. According to Crawford, he was Sir Robert Mortimer.
  11. Richardson II 2011, p. 313.
  12. Watson 1877, pp. 11–14, 163–4.
  13. Richardson II 2011, p. 412.
  14. Kendall 1955, pp. 193–6, 365.
  15. Grant 1972, p. 16.
  16. Grant 2017, p. 15.
  17. Ashdown-Hill, J., Richard III's 'Beloved Cousyn': John Howard and the House of York, Stroud 2009, pp. 114, 170 n.5

See also


  • Cokayne, George Edward (1936). The Complete Peerage, edited by H.A. Doubleday and Lord Howard de Walden. IX. London: St. Catherine Press. pp. 42, 610–12.
  • Crawford, Anne (2004). "Howard, John, first duke of Norfolk (d. 1485)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/13921.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Everingham, Kimball G. (ed.). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families. I (2nd ed.). Salt Lake City. ISBN 1-4499-6637-3.
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Everingham, Kimball G. (ed.). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families. II (2nd ed.). Salt Lake City. pp. 313, 409–413. ISBN 1-4499-6638-1. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Everingham, Kimball G. (ed.). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families. III (2nd ed.). Salt Lake City. ISBN 1-4499-6639-X.
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Everingham, Kimball G. (ed.). Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families. I (2nd ed.). Salt Lake City. ISBN 1-4499-6631-4.
  • Watson, J. Yelloly (1877). The Tendring Hundred in the Olden Time. Colchester: Benham & Harrison. pp. 11–14, 163–4. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  • D. N. J. MacCulloch (ed.). The Chorography of Suffolk.
  • Paul Murray Kendall, Richard The Third, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1955 ISBN 0-04-942048-8
  • Neil Grant, The Howards of Norfolk, Franklin Watts Ltd., London, 1972
  • Lee, Sidney, ed. (1891). "Howard, John (1430?-1485)". Dictionary of National Biography. 28. London: Smith, Elder & Co.

Further reading

  • John Ashdown-Hill: Richard III's "Beloved Cousyn": John Howard and the House of York The History Press 2009 ISBN 978-0-7524-5131-2
  • Anne Crawford: Yorkst Lord: John Howard, Duke of Norfolk c.1425–1485, London 2010, ISBN 978-1-4411-5201-5
Political offices
Preceded by
Sir Richard Harcourt
High Sheriff of Berkshire and Oxfordshire
Succeeded by
Sir William Norreys
Preceded by
The Duke of Gloucester
Lord High Admiral
Succeeded by
The Earl of Oxford
Preceded by
The Duke of York
Earl Marshal
Succeeded by
The Earl of Nottingham
Peerage of England
New creation Duke of Norfolk
Succeeded by
Forfeit & attainted;
next held Thomas Howard
Title last held by
Anne de Mowbray
Baron Mowbray and Baron Segrave
c 1484–1485
New creation Baron Howard
Succeeded by
Forfeit & attainted;
further title holders unsure
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